Monday, 30 March 2015

A Faustian Bargain??

I love my iPhone 5S, I love my iPad2 (both 64 GB), and I love my Mac Book Pro. Thanks to Puja, we are an Apple family. From the 4S to the 6, we cover all models of the iPhone.

I also have a Kindle e-reader, and the Kindle App on all my devices. I read my book on the Kindle, enjoying Pune’s evening breeze on my terrace. When it gets too dark, I simply switch to the iPad, which remembers exactly where I left off on the Kindle. Sitting in the ECHS Waiting Room, I switch to the iPhone, and of course he too knows exactly which page I’m on!

I pay my bills, check my bank accounts, transfer funds from here to there, chat with my friends, electronically check in, update my fb status, tweet to all my 165 followers - all in this wonderful digital maze. It is choc-a-bloc with its wow moments.

Travelling from Poona to Bombay on the Expressway, I realised it was the last day to pay my Credit Card bill. No sweat. I whipped out my iPhone, and in a matter of 45 seconds flat, the HDFC Bank was thanking me for my prompt payment. Via an sms, naturally!

Using Face Time, Puja was laboriously hand walked through the intricate steps of the sabudana khichdi that she was attempting to whip up - in San Francisco! Why anyone in SF would want to eat sabudana khichdi is the subject for a separate post!!

So logically, God should be in Heaven, and all should be well with the Earth, right? Not if the likes of Edward Snowden are to be believed.

The digital processes that make life such a breeze also mean that we now live in an Orwellian world, that `Big Brother’ is watching every move, reading every mail/sms, scrutinising every tweet that we make!

Every digital platform that we use can be tracked. Every document, every mail, every sms, every conversation can be seen, heard, listened to, and spot lighted.

So has technology actually freed us, or bound us in chains? We hear of phone hacking scandals in UK, Snoop Gates, Wiki leaks, and the NSA even hacking into Angela Mercel’s phone!

The world’s most famous whistle blower, Edward Snowden, blew the whistle on NSA’s `snooping’. (Do watch `Citizenfour’, the  Cinema Verite style documentary on Snowden, it is compelling). Along with Julian Assange, Snowden must count as the biggest heroes/traitors of the digital era – depending on which side of the prism you look at them from.

9/11 obviously turned the entire security paradigm on its head. Ethical questions began to take the back burner to the more important security concerns.

So are we really better off in the digital age? Anyone who has stood in the serpentine queues to pay BSNL or MSEB bills would obviously scream in the affirmative.

Progress is inexorable, it is relentless, it will brook no hurdles. You cannot wish it away. An Arnab Goswami may make you yearn for the good old Doordarshan days, but let’s face it - his obnoxious, high decibel, in your face persona is here to stay.  

And security issues should, of course, trump all other concerns. Removing your shoes at London’s Heathrow airport can be irksome, but if you’re confident your socks don’t have gaping holes in them, you bear it with a grin.

Personally, I think the Americans are taking this `privacy’ angle way too far. The only eyes I’d want to keep squarely away from my phone would be those of my spouse! Otherwise, how does it matter if the Government of India, or even USA’s National Security Agency knows the details of my Credit Card bills, or who I message in the darkness of the night?

An aside here. A friend had just bought a smart phone, and being rather technologically challenged, asked me to set it up for him. To pull the wool over the prying eyes of his extremely inquisitive spouse, his Contact List was full of codes, ie James for Jyotsna, and so on. Great, until he received a WhatsApp message from `James’. To his utter horror, there was the delectable Jyotsna, smiling oh so provocatively at him through her Display Picture!! He promptly switched back to his primitive Nokia! 

To Jennifer Lawrence and her ilk whose nude pics were hacked from iCloud and spread all over the internet, my simple rejoinder – why would you do something so silly in the first place?

So it’s progress on the one hand, and loss of privacy on the other. With the need for Security looming over both. It is a Faustian bargain as some would have us believe?

Hardly. Keep your house in order, keep your nose clean. The Government can watch, no problem. Big Brother can scrutinise as much as he likes to.

Of course, your spouse is a different matter altogether!!


  1. Brilliant!
    However privacy concerns are so very real and god knows what proportions it might assume in the future.

  2. Sir, Simply wonderful! You have put across a very serious subject in the best possible manner. Personally, I have always believed in what you have said. May be the Army has something to do with this? Don't see too many civilians agreeing with it....and to them the best reply would be "What do you have to hide?"

  3. Great n simply put.
    If you have anything to hide why mail/talk/send etc.
    Privacy is for you to keep OR
    it is "I am telling you in Confidence, Pl do not tell anyone" meaning go tell all you know.
    Let us grow up and and NOT crib on such issues of privacy.